Excerpts from November 2012 Report
For a pilot survey I went to the field and met my collaborator Mr Nadiram Deuri and his associates. They took me a place which they called club (at Jagiroad, Morigaon District), where they actually perform their rehearsals of Tiwa Folk Music and Dances. Mr Nadiram Deuri who is about 55 years old, he performs in different parts of India with his troupe consisting of male and female performers. He has not only links with major Tiwa Cultural Leaders but he has collected different forms of Tiwa Music and Dances forms from hills and plains. I got a glimpse of Tiwa Folk Songs and Dances and an initial rapport was established.
Excerpts from December 2012 Report
I visited to observe a stage performance of Tiwa folk dance at the Indian Institute of Technology, Guwahati on 11th December 2012.Two different Tiwa folk dances with their beautiful Tiwa folk Songs and musical instrument like Drum, Flute, Singa Pepa (a kind of flute made of the horn of Buffalo) and Taal (a kind of musical instrument)were performed. The use of Sarailo (a kind of musical instrument made of wood) is one of the main attractions of the dance performances.
I recorded a rehearsal program of Two Tiwa folk songs at the club of my collaborator Nadiram Deuri at Jagiroad of Morigaon districton 14th December 2012.
From the 16th December to 26th of December 2012 there was a dance workshop organized in Karbi Anglong district of Assam, where my collaborator Nadiram Deuri taught the Tiwa folk dances. Though this workshop was based on Tiwa folk dance performance, there were many participants who belong to the Karbi community.
I have also visited the Barat Utsav (festival) on 28th December. It was held in a village namely Tetelia in Morigaon District of Assam. Barat is a festival which is celebrated by the Plain Tiwas in Tetelia Village of Gobha Rajya (Tiwa populated areas are called as Gobha Rajya). This is the only festival which is celebrated at the night of full moon. People come to join there from the different parts of Gobha Rajya.
In this Barat Utsav, people sing their Barat Songs with their fabulous dance performances. There are two types of Barat Songs, like (1) Barat Geet or Baratar Geet and (2) Barat Naam or Baratar Naam. Barat Geets are performed by the participants of this festival with their specific Barat dance performance. In the context of Barat Geets, male and female performers tease each other as well as they describe about other things, feelings and psychology. Barat Geets also reflect the eagerness of the Tiwa folk for this colourful festival. On the other hand, Barat Naams are performed by a group of women who are associated with the ritual of Barat festival. Mainly elderly women sing Barat Naam to praise their Goddess.
In case of the dance performance of Barat, the performers use different types of masks to perform their Barat dance like, Animal Mask, Deity Mask, Ghost and Witch Mask ect. The mask users are mainly male. Some performers perform their dance without using any mask. Choreography of Barat dance is related with the animal gestures and in a very small part of this performance some performers show the fishing practice of Tiwas. The entire performance of Barat traced back the history of the Tiwa tribe and their beliefs associate with this festival.
Musical Instruments of Barat: Different types of Sarailos, Drums, Flutes, and Taals are the main musical instruments of the Barat songs and dance performances.
Field Report of January 2013
In the month of January I visited Jonbil Mela of Tiwa tribe, held at Jagiroad of Morigaon district in the month of January, during the period of Magh Bihu. Jonbil is a fair cum festival where many other tribes take participate. The tribes like Khasi, Jayantia, Karbi, Tiwa exchange their commodities and products among them without using money. In this barter system many people come from different parts of Assam to exchange their products with the tribes. Gobha Raja (Raja means king) comes to this mela and his subordinate kings also participate in Jonbil Mela. The Mantris (ministers) collect the tax from the people who participate in the Jonbil Mela to exchange their products. Unity in diversity reflects in this Jonbil Mela among the different tribes of Assam. The Jonbil is a combination of two words; jon and bil and the meaning of these two words accordingly moon and pond. There are three most common sayings behind the name of Jonbil.
- It is believed that this Jonbil fair cum festival is held on the bank of a pond where the ancient Gova Raja seen the reflection of the crescent moon on the water of the pond.
- According to some people the shape of this pond is like a crescent moon
- Another saying regarding the Jonbil is that Jonbil fair cum festival is named after the king Jon Sing.
Community fishing is one of the important significance during the Jonbil Mela. The people participate in the community fishing with their beautiful folk songs. On the last day of Jonbil, people have feast and the next day morning they set their temporary huts on fire. The various dance forms and songs are performed by the tribes during the Jonbil festival.
In Jonbil Mela Tiwa tribe perform their various folk performances to express their happiness as well as to praise their King Gobha Raja. This time some artists have performed Maifatala Nitya (dance), Barat Nitya (dance), Godalporia Barat Nitya (dance) and Moinari Kanthi Nitya (dance).
Folk performance of a tribe is as like as the mirror of that tribe. From any kind of folk performance one can understand the psychology of the folk of a society. Maifatala Nitya or dance is associated with the agricultural practice of Tiwas which followed by Maifatala song. These dance and song performance focused the main occupation of this tribe or the importance of agriculture in Tiwa community.
Barat Nitya and Godalporia Barat Nitya are two folk dance performances which are related to the Barat Utsav (festival) and these two dance performances followed by Barat song and Godalporia song accordingly. As I have mentioned in my last field report of the month of December that in Barat festival, the dance movements are similar to movements of animal ; but with the passage of time, choreography of these dances have been modified. New steps in these folk dance performances have been added, for example they have added their fishing practice as a new gesture of Barat dance. Use of Khaloi and Jakhoi (the traditional equipments which are used by Tiwa tribes for fishing) by the performers symbolized their fishing practice in Godalporia Barat Dance.
Musical instruments: Drums, Flutes, Sarailo (musical instrument made of bamboo), Singa Pepa (a kind of flute made of Buffalo horn) were the main musical instruments used during Jonbil.
I met a Karbi performer in Tiwa tradition attire, who played flute and pepa with one of the Tiwa folk dance performance bands. From this case we can understand the brotherhood feelings between Tiwa and Karbi tribes.
Excerpts from February Report
In the month of February I visited the club of my collaborator Shri Nadiram Deuri to know about the material culture connected with songs and dances of Tiwas. I saw 7 musical instruments, 6 traditional equipments and traditional male attire which they use in their folk dance performances.
Sarailo is very unique kind of folk musical instrument of Plain Tiwas ,made of bamboo. It is small in size and performers use it in solo performances. There is another kind of Sarailo namely Jakoria Sarailo which is bigger in size. Performers use it mainly in the Barat festival to perform their beautiful Barat dance and songs. In dance performances, three people carry the Jakoria Sarailo in a line and they play it with the help of the strings. The Sarailo has a bird on the top of it and a head of deer in the front and a tail of jute on the back side of it. The name Sarailo derived from the word Sarai means bird. According to Tiwa people the bird of Sarailo is the Pigeon. Pigeon is very calm bird as well as deer; therefore the pigeon and deer of Sarailo symbolize peace.
Tiwa people have different kinds of wooden drums. In Tiwa language, it is known as Khram. I have seen 3 numbers of drums like Pati Khram, Khram Ludang and Khram Khujura or jor Khram at my collaborator’s club. They use each of it in different types of performances. Pati Khram is played mainly by the plain Tiwas. In Barat Utsav people mostly use Pati Khram, Jakoria Sarailo, Sarailo, Muhuri, and Taal. Pati Khramis also available in Assamese society but it is known as Pati Dhul in Assamese term; which is the main musical instrument of Bihu Festival. Khram Ludang is another kind of drum which is very long. It is the musical instrument of the Hill Tiwas and they play it in Wansuwa and Yangli festivals and in Aarkheti Nritya (Zhumkheti dance) etc. Khujura Khram or Jor Khram is played in Yangli dance and songs of Yangli festival, Sagrwa dance and songs of Sagrwa festival and Mainari Kanthi Misawa (dance). It is known as Khujura Khram (Khujura means short and Khram means drum) among the Hill Tiwas and in Plain, it is known as Jor Khram. This drum is one of the important musical instruments of Tiwa Rajas. Muhuri is a kind of flute and it is found in various forms.
Pangsi is a flute which is made of bamboo. It is also another important musical instrument of Tiwas.
Apart from all these musical instruments Nadiram Deuri described some other musical instruments which are not available among the Tiwas of plain. Thurang is a kind of flute which is made of bamboo. It is very long and can be folded into two pieces. Thurang is like the heart of Tiwas. The music of Thurang is very beautiful and peaceful. Thurlu is a musical instrument with two holes. The buffalo horn flute is called Singa in Tiwa. It is also popular among the Assamese society and is known as Singa Pepa. Tiwas have Komna also. It is also available in the material culture of Assam but in Assamese it is known as Gagana. Khram Panthai is a drum which is available in Hills. It is played along with Khram Lewa and Khram Ludang. Tumding Tokor is a very unique kind of drum which is played in Mainari Kanthi Misawa. A Performer ties this drum around his navel with a piece of cloth. Thokari is single string musical instrument of Tiwas. Sarangkat is a musical instrument which is similar to violin. Sarangkat is restricted to be played inside the Dekachang (male dormitory) but in their free time, boys can play it outside their dormitory for the amusement. They express love, sadness etc by playing Sarangkat. Chenthor is a wooden made musical instrument which is known as Jator. In Wansuwa festival, boys and girls use this instrument when they participate in singing competitions.
Tiwas have some traditional equipment which is very essential to dance performances like :
- Sam and Sambari, (Traditiona equipment of cake making in Wansuwa for Wansuwa dance),
- Jakhui, Falah and Khaloi, (Traditional fishing equipment for Barat dance),
- Langkhui and Paru (Sword and shield for Yangli dance) and
- Langkhan (Bamboo piece for Langkhan dance).
I have observed the male traditional costumes and necklace of Tiwas at my collaborator’s home is very attractive. They use this traditional attire when they dance and sing and is also important for any ritualistic performance like Sagrwa Fuja. These male traditional costumes are as follows:
- Faguri (Headgear of hand-woven cloth),
- Faga (A piece of cloth for neck),
- Thenash (Cloth for chest, it is used as a cross belt for chest),
- Tagla (Traditional jacket),
- Nara (A piece of cloth for waist it is used like a waist belt. In Assamese traditional handloom, people use a piece of cloth like Nara in Bihu dance which is known as Tongali),
- Thana (Cloth for lower body part of male)
- Tukhuralengjai (It is another type of headgear which is made of the tails of Bhimraj Bird but now a days this species of bird is rare in the plain areas; therefore they use tails of Hens as a subtitude).
- Sikila (Necklace for both male and female)
In the present time people use colours on their musical instruments where no colours were used earlier; which can be considered one of the major changes in musical instruments. These colours are generally applied on the musical instruments to make them more attractive for stage performances. The colours are also used as preservative measure that checks the insects and other pest causing damage to the instruments.
In case of traditional textiles, the Tagla (male traditional jacket) was very short in size whereas now they prefer to wear the long Tagla. Though the original short Tagla is popular in the hills, but in the plains, Tiwa males don’t use the original Tagla. According to my collaborator, the new form of Tagla is much more comfortable to wear and to perform dances.
Excerpts from March Report
On 22nd of March 2013, I visited a place Bormarjong in Karbi Anglong district, Assam at the time of Sakra or Sagrwa Misawa Fuja. Bormarjong is the main place of Tiwa cultural heritage. It is a small beautiful village of Hill Tiwas, where about 150 to 180 households live .Agriculture is the main occupation of this village. Plantation of bamboo is another significant culture for livelihood of the people of Bormarjong. Every household use a unique kind of traditional bamboo gate namely Langara, which is very eye-catching.
Sakra or Sagrwa Misawa Fuja is one of the agricultural based folk dance festivals of Tiwas; which is celebrated yearly in the month of Fagun (during the month of February to March). Every clan of Hill Tiwas of Karbi Anglong district like Amsai, Marjong, Lumfui, Amri and Amkha celebrates Sakra at their villages. In case of Plain Tiwas, different Tiwa villages which are situated near by Nagaon, Morigaon and Kamrup districts also celebrate Sakra Misawa Fuja.
There are two types of Sakra Misawa Fuja, like Sakra and Sakra Mura. In Sakra, dance performers wear Khumkhathi which is a headgear especially for Sakra dance. But in Sakra Mura, dance performers don’t wear Khumkhathi. Sakra is a spring dance festival of Tiwas; therefore it is also known as Basanta Utsav of Tiwas. There is a taboo among the Tiwas for any woman toparticipate in Sakra Misawa Fuja. Women are prohibited to take part in any kind of performance like dance, music, ritual of Sakra Misawa Fuja. They are only allowed to help the participants and other people.
Excerpts from April 2012 Report
From my field experience at Bormarjong village, I have come to know that the people of this village belong to Marjong clan. Sakra is the first spring time dance festival of them. It is believed that the main worshipped deity of this Sakra Misawa Fuja is Saribhai or Nasuni Paguri Raja or Nritya Geetar Debota (means God of dance and music). It is also believed that people are not permitted to prepare their paddy field for the next harvest before Sakra Misawa Fuja. The Samadi or bachelors’ dormitory forms the nucleus for this dance sequence. Rehearsal of Sakra songs and dance takes place early in October and continues till the time of inauguration of the festival in February or March. In Bormarjong, the both types of dance performers namely Sakra and Sakra Mura take part in the performance. In Sakra, there are five performers who perform their dance in a circular way. They are known as Teoria, Muding Muchlung, Muting Muchua, Bura and Moch. Teoria, Muding Muchlung and Muting Muchua are known as Tengre. They wear headgears of Khumkhathi which is made of the inner part of a tree. Bura use another type of headgear which is made of a local verity of grass, known as Kohua Bon in Assamese (means Kans grass, scientific name- Saccharum Spontaneum). The Moch use Faguri, a kind of headdress and hold a piece of decorative bamboo. This decorative piece of bamboo is also called as Moch. At the periphery of Sakra, Sakra Mura performs their dance along with them. There are four other performers who wear the banana leaves from the head to toe and they perform dance along with Sakra Mura. It is believed that they protect the Sakra performers and other dance performers from the evil eye. During the period of Sakra Misawa Fuja they are not allowed to enter inside the house. They stay at the outside for whole day and night till the closing stages of Sakra. Pangsi, Khram Khujura and Thurang are the main musical instruments of Sakra Misawa. With the steps Sakra, Misawa all dance and musical performers also sing the Sakra songs. The dance steps and songs are very sluggish. In Sakra Misawa, some people take part in the ritual part, they are known as Lor or Hadari. Sakra performers perform their dance and songs only at the village head men’s places. In Bormarjong village, there are seven numbers of village head men; where Sakra performance takes place serially. When a Sakra performance goes on at any village head man’s place, at the same time the Lor or Hadari recite mantra or chants of Sakra inside that household to praise their deities. The household and other villagers supply the local wine, betel nuts, dry fish etc to the performers on the performance arena.
There are many beliefs related to Sakra Misawa Fuja. Each clan has its own specific belief. According to the Marjong clan of Bormarjong village, one day in an assembly of Saribhai, a flower fell down from the sky. Other deities like Thalya, Thogroya and Balakhongar were also present in that assembly. Thalya said that they should take that flower with them and that flower would help them in future. But when other deities disagreed, then Thalya took that flower and brought it to his home for his children. He thought that his children could play with that flower. Thalya threw that flower where his children were playing. After getting it his children were very happy and intoxicated with energy and started to dance. Thalya, Thogroya and Balakhongar were also overjoyed when they saw the happiness of the children. Then they decided to make a custom. Therefore, two groups of Sakra Misawa Fuja, perform their dance at Bormarjong. One is Korokhia Sakra and another is Kra Sakra. The young boys and Lor, Doloi, Hadari etc participate in Sakra separately; if the boys group faces the other performers like Lor, Doloi Hadari etc, then they have to pay a fine for it.
According to one research scholar of Gauhati University namely Shri Rajiv Kumar Bordoloi, who has done his M A dissertation on “Sokra Misawa: A Folk Festival of Tiwa Community” from Tezpur University, he described that Sakra is a spring time dance festival of Tiwas; where they worshipped the deities of nature.
From my visit to Bormarjong village, I came to surmise that there are many unexplored lore associated with Sakra Misawa Fuja.
The middle part of Assam like Morigaon, Nagaon, Kamrup and Karbi Anglong districts are Tiwa populated areas. The villages of Plain Tiwas are situated in Morigaon, Nagaon and Kamrup districts of Assam. Tetelia village of Morigaon district is one of the villages inhabited of Plain Tiwas. The Tiwas of this village speak a dialect which is a mixture of Assamese and Tiwa language. Cultural assimilation in language, dressing style, religious and cultural practices are remarkable among the Plain Tiwas. Though the Plain Tiwas of some areas like Tetelia Gaon, Neli speak a mixture of languages, most of the Tiwas of Plain areas use Assamese language as their medium of communication. A section of Plain Tiwas follow Hinduism and are called Saranias. They are followers of Srimanta Sankardeva or Vaishnavite Culture.
In Tetelia village, I Mr Khargeswar Bordoloi’s , who is a mask artist. He learnt the mask making culture from his father. I asked him about the materials used in making masks and the changes in the art over a period of time. In mask making, an artist uses small and thin pieces of bamboo, cloth, clay and dung of cow. Mr Khargeswar Bordoloi said that earlier many people of Tetelia village were engaged in mask making t. At the time of Barat festival, artists made mask of Barat dance at a common place known as Mukha Hoja Ghar (means house of mask making). According to Khargeswar Bordoloi the new generation is not interested in learning the mask making art.
At Khargeswar Bordoloi’s place, I met three elderly women -Farbeswari Senapati (85), Pateswari Bordoloi (70), Ashadoi Bordoloi (70) who take part in the ritual of the Barat Utsab. Ashadoi Bordoloi is known as Baratani as she plays the chief role in the ritual of the Barat Utsab. The Baratani belongs to Amsi Kul (means clan). Only Amsi Kul women occupy this position traditionally. Tetelia Tiwa Raja Parishad (committee) selects one woman for the position of Baratani from the Amsi Kul. If in case, that woman is not able to take Baratani position for any reason, then it is offered to another woman of the same clan. These women told me that in Barat Utsab, they praise Kechaikhati and Aai Bhagowati. If they can’t satisfy Kechaikhati and Bhagowati then people have to suffer from various kind of disease and death. On the other hand, Mr Khargeswar Bordoloi told me that Fa Mahadeo (Lord Shiva) is the supreme God of Tiwas and they pray him in Brat Festival. In my conversation with these three old women, Mrs Manju Patar helped me as an interpreter who is one of the members of Tetelia Gaon.
I interviewed Mr Ratneswar Bordoloi, the younger brother of Mr Khargeswar Bordoloi. As a member of Tetelia village, Mr Ratneswar Bordoloi is intimately involved with Barat Festival. He has written many articles and a book on Barat festival namely “Usha Barat”. In “Usha Barat”, he described the Barat Festival very briefly and clearly. He said that when he was a small boy, people used Banana leaves to make the roof of the stage of the Barat festival. Use of microphone was prohibited earlier. In Barat songs people mainly describe their feelings, experiences, beliefs and tease each other. In earlier days, through Barat songs boys and girls teased each other and if defeated by someone then he/she had to go with her/him for the whole life. But now people tease each other through their Barat songs for amusement.
My discussion with my collaborator Mr Nadiram Deuri was based on the changes of Barat festival, songs of Barat, mask making and the life style of plain Tiwas and the people of Tetelia Gaon. He said that the middle part of Assam is inhabited by plain Tiwas and therefore they are influenced by the Assamese society. He mentioned some Tiwa villages of the plains like Tetelia, Bhumuraguri, Sarangkuchi, Markangkuchi, Deusal, Silchang, Dorapani, Makoria, Dohali and Kathiatuli where the people use a dialect as a medium of communication which is a mixture of Tiwa and Assamese language. He told that modern Barat songs which he has composed, these are some combination of original Barat songs which are known as Leseri.
We discussed on a very interesting topic regarding the Vaishnavite Culture. Scholarly people like Mr Nadiram Deuri and Tulshi Bordoloi, believe that Mahapurush Srimanta Sankardeva adopted the structure of Monikut (the seat of God at Naamghar) from Naparo (a traditional house) of Tiwas. As Sankardeva was born and brought up at Borduwa of Nagaon district of Assam, he was influenced by Tiwas.